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Top 10 Video Game Text Tones

Here’s a bit of an oddity: I’m doing a top 10 list! It’s not that I don’t like them or hate the number 10. It’s more that I find the idea of delving deep into a single aspect of a game much more intriguing than spreading myself over the broad base necessary to make a list. I’d rather talk about how oppression and empowerment are the dominant themes of the Far Cry games or how the marketing for Assassin’s Creed III spoiled some surprise twists of the game’s story than talk about every weird peripheral made in the last 20 years or the most useless innovations of the 90s.

I’m also horribly indecisive and hate picking a number one anything.

But this was one I just couldn’t get out of my head. A few nights ago, a friend of mine’s phone went off with a text alert and it was the Metal Gear Solid alert sound. You know the one. That shrill, rising pluck that seems both brief and drawn out. I’ve heard it as many people’s text ringtones, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone confront its user: “Why? Can’t you be more original?” another friend asked.

So the next few hours kind of turned into some hot debate about what classic but slightly obscure video game dings would make for good text alerts (phone ringtones are a completely different story). They needed to be immediately recognizable to those in the know but not abhorrently overdone. They also can’t be too long (sorry Metroid‘s “Item Fanfare“). It’s a tricky balance because you have to dive deep into your brain to find things that you forgot you knew. I’m not saying we managed to nail that since there are some obvious choices that we just couldn’t pass up, but there are a few here that I think are more original. Anyways, here is what we arrived at.

10. Mass Effect‘s Wrex/Shepard Interaction – I’d take either one because both are so ridiculous. Maybe I’d put “Wrex” for SMS and “Shepard” for apps. I don’t know. I just know that anyone who hears that is immediately going to go, “wait..is that…” and then go straight to laughing and quoting it for the next five minutes.

9. Mega Man 2‘s Boss Select – But really just the last part. The entire thing taken as a whole is far too long for a text (for me, anyways), but if you just take the last bit at around five seconds in, it should still be recognizable and then you can suss out who you want to befriend, defriend, and shoot with a Mega Buster.

8. The Final Fantasy Cursor Sound – Basically every Final Fantasy game has the same cursor sound, so I don’t think it would really matter which one. I mean, they all have their microsecond of quirk and personality and I’m partial to the Final Fantasy X one myself, but any of them—any—would make for a great choice. Plus, when someone correctly identifies which particular Final Fantasy your ringtone came from, you then get to/have to make out. Yes, it’s the law.

7. Nintendo Game Boy Boot Sound – What an icon sound. It plays to just about everybody’s childhood without necessarily pandering to it. Upon hearing it, everyone around will have their eyes roll back into their heads and slink back in their chairs as they remember everything about the early and mid-90s.

6. PlayStation 3 Trophy / Xbox 360 Achievement – I know, I know. I said we weren’t going to go into the obvious choices, but come on. These two dings are so forcibly ingrained in your mind as something positive, you’ll never not be happy about getting a text. You’ll visibly perk up and say aloud, “ooh!” It’s impossible not to, which I would say is good enough reason to put it on this list.

5. Pac-Man‘s Waka Waka – Specifically two wakas. No more, no less. Two is the ideal number since the first one will gently prod the brain of anyone around you with the nostalgia stick and then the second one will mercilessly beat them with it. It’s the perfect combo. Just that simple waka waka and bam! You’ve got your hooks in them.

4. Final Fantasy VII‘s Chocobo Warble – Full disclosure: this is a bit of a personal choice. I’m not entirely sure everyone in the will be able to identify with it, but we really like FFVII. Like, a lot. So this is going on there because it’s awesome and it makes me want to ride giant chickens so deal with it.

3. No More Heroes‘ Energize – This is one 90% of the world is going to have no idea is from anything real, but that doesn’t matter; it’s that other 10% that’s key because they played and treasured a god damn amazing game. But for the majority of the population, it still sounds like a pretty fucking sweet text alert, so win-win!

2. Half-Life‘s Health Noise – I think this is pretty much the perfect video game text tone. It’s short, distinct, and utterly recognizable without being too popular. Only after hearing someone else use this will people go, “crap! That should have been me!” I also think it’s just an incredible sound effect and would be number one if that conversation wasn’t a democracy.

1. The Mario Coin – I mean, come on. You kind of knew this was coming. It might be overdone, but it’s classic for a reason. Literally everyone from a graveyard full of dead cosmonauts to a newborn baby will hear this and give you a knowing nod before moving on with their lives. It’s universal recognition. It also invites serendipity.

Anecdote: I was walking out of my philosophy class at Texas Tech, dropped my pen, and reached down to pick it up. As soon as I made contact, someone passing by got a text and it was this alert. I stood up, he stopped, and we looked at each other. Then we dabbed knucks and parted ways, never to see each other ever again.

So there you have it. This was the list we arrived at after a few hours of heated debate and rash, slightly inebriated decisions. I know you’re going to complain that we missed some like the Metroid PrimeData Received” or the Metal Gear Solid codec sound, but this is just the top 10. On a list of all-time greats, those would of course be on there, along with Mario’s jump, Persona 4′s “pipipi” ringtone, the classic Capcom intro, Pokémon healing chime, and so many more. But go ahead and leave your comments below. I’d love to hear how dumb I am for leaving off your current ringtone!

No really, I would. Let me know what I missed!

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